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GameSided Roundtable: Favorite Gaming Soundtrack

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Greetings! This is our weekly GameSided Roundtable feature, where our writers converge to provide their opinions, wishes, statements or critical thought on one general topic centered around video games. Sometimes it can be funny, sometimes it can be serious. Contemporary, classic; we hope to cover a wide variety of things in this segment as a group. If you wish to submit an idea for a GameSided Roundtable discussion topic, you can leave the editor an email at: We’ll totally give you (and your Twitter account, if applicable) a shoutout!

This week’s topic: “What is your favorite video game soundtrack of all time?”

Mytheos Holt (Twitter)

Without a doubt my favorite gaming soundtrack would have to be the soundtrack to “Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest.” (DK2) This may not surprise people, given that I recently harped on the game at great length in a separate article. However, I do just have to take a moment to praise this soundtrack not just from a gamer’s perspective, but from a musician and composer’s perspective.

DK2 is a darker game than its predecessor, “Donkey Kong Country,” and the soundtrack for the game reflects this perfectly. Nearly all the level soundtracks are written in a minor key, as is the level select screen. What is more, the game makes the most of the capacities of a 16 bit processor by featuring what sounds like, in many cases, fully orchestrated music. The level select screen theme, for instance, blends a cutting, martial sounding string motif with a blaring melody in the brass, which is a far cry from the jaunty piano-dominated level select screen in the original.

The music is also intimately tied with the game mechanics of particular levels. For instance, levels featuring gusting wind are scored with breathy sounding, soft notes that combine with haunting, high woodwind melodies, as if the orchestra itself is being played by the random gusts. Meanwhile, levels on the game’s first world, a pirate ship, are scored with jaunty melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place from a 19th-century tavern band.

That being said, as the level select screen implies, the game’s primary musical home is in pieces that emphasize the strings and low brass, and nowhere is this combination used to greater effect than the soundtrack for “Haunted Hall,” a level which involves the characters riding in a skull-shaped roller coaster car while being pursued by the ghost of a massive crocodile:

This song has everything: frantic, terror-inducing and violently fast strings, pulsing, heart-pumping percussion, menacing descending scales in the low brass, and jarring eruptions in the high brass, as if to accompany jump scares in an actual horror film. It’s a song that sets one’s teeth on edge and makes adrenaline flow with precisely the effectiveness that the level requires, while still being phenomenally enjoyable to listen to. In terms of individual level soundtracks, in my mind, “Haunted Hall” is right up there with “One Winged Angel” and I can only express my sorrow that it hasn’t achieved similarly iconic status. In fact, really, it’s a standout in what should be an iconic soundtrack.